Getting Ready for Your Safari
You’re about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime safari. To make the absolute most of your adventure, it’s essential to be prepared and know what to pack for a safari. Geographic Expeditions’ safari experts have compiled packing tips for your grand expedition, so that you can show up ready for game drives, bush walks, gorilla treks, camp stays, and more, and have the most extraordinary safari experience possible.
“What an extraordinary adventure you planned for us! All the natural wonders of Africa were enchanced by beautiful and intersting accommodations, seamless travel from camp to camp, and unique touches that can only be arranged by a group with the expertise, experience, and connections of GeoEx.” –Harriet E.
What to Pack for a Safari
Here are some important things to know even before you start packing:
- Luggage limits: At some point on safari, you’ll likely be flying by light aircraft with strict luggage size and weight requirements. In southern Africa, the limit is typically 44 pounds (20 kilograms) per person; in East Africa, it’s 33 pounds (15 kilograms).
- Because small aircraft have cramped cargo holds, pilots require guests to carry soft-sided bags without wheels or frames. The good news: GeoEx provides complimentary duffel bags that fit these criteria. If you think you may need a larger luggage allowance, check with us about purchasing an extra seat on the flights or opportunities to store excess luggage at a city hotel.
- Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and make an appointment at your medical facility’s travel clinic to discuss and arrange the recommended medicines (e.g., doxycycline for malaria) and vaccines for the destinations you are exploring.
Clothing & Accessories
In the world of safari, style and simplicity go hand in hand. Since laundry is nearly always included at your safari camp, you only need to pack a few versatile essentials which you can rotate.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants made of durable fabrics to protect yourself against sun, dust, insects, and thorny vegetation.
- Lightweight, quick-drying materials work well and provide additional comfort.
- Closed-toe sports shoes or lightweight hiking boots are best for safari outings, and it’s handy to have a pair of slip-off shoes for around camp.
- Color choices: Lean toward khakis and other earth-tone colors (e.g,. gray, brown, olive), and steer clear of white (which is hard on animal eyes), as well as bright colors and loud patterns, which can scare wildlife away. Blue is known to attract mosquitos and blue and black to draw the tsetse or “tik-tik” flies, large bloodsucking flies found throughout tropical Africa, so those are best avoided as well.
- A broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses are must-haves for sun protection.
- A raincoat is always a good idea to have in case of inclement weather or simply to use as a wind barrier.
- Be sure to pack good-quality, ideally non-cotton socks for your bush walks and safari outings (cheap cotton often leads to blisters and chewed-up feet).
- A scarf becomes an MVP item on safari: warmth during cold morning game drives and evening sundowners; a dust barrier; and a bit of style for dinners and photos. Another favorite: a buff or neck gaiter, which is super versatile and protects against sun, dust, and wind. You can also dip it in cool water and wear around your neck when it gets hot.
It’s the smaller items that will really go a long way toward making your safari magical.
- Day pack to carry your basics each day: Remember, neutral coloring is key—even for this. Bring along a few small carabiners to hang items from the outside of your pack as well, providing a bit of extra space.
- Camera supplies: While smartphones work well for everyday photography, consider buying or renting a DSL camera and zoom lens for better wildlife pictures. Pack a back-up battery and more memory cards than you think you’ll need. When you happen upon that pride of lions, it’s important to be ready.
- Medication: Be sure you have the requirements covered (e.g., malaria medication, yellow fever certificates), as well as over-the-counter basics, such as Pepto-Bismol tablets, Benadryl, and aloe; you can never be too prepared when it comes to taking care of your health while on-the-road.
- Carry plenty of sunscreen (and remember to reapply!), as well as bug repellant and hand and face wipes for keeping freer of dust and insects.
- Binoculars: Although some safari camps have binoculars on hand for use, consider bringing along your own set. The same goes for headlamps and earplugs (if nocturnal animal noises keep you up at night).
- Plug adapter: Being on safari in the Serengeti doesn’t mean you’ll be without power. An international power plug adapter is essentials for assuring items like your DSL are charged and ready to go.
- Storage bags: Keep your dirty shoes and clothes separate from the rest of your items with a couple of nylon bags. In a similar vein, a thin dry-bag is the perfect place to store a camera and anything else you don’t want affected by dust or wet conditions.
- Small journal and pen: Record the highlights and reflections you have on your safari as they unfold.
Some Extras to Consider:
These items aren’t as critical, but can be very useful on safari:
- If you find yourself in Africa between June and August—particularly in southern Africa, further from the equator—pack for chilly mornings and nights. A nano-puff jacket or fleece goes a long way in those pre-dawn wake-ups, along with a hat, scarf, warm socks, and gloves.
- While life on safari is pretty casual, at premier camps like Mombo, Zarafa, or a Singita lodge, there’s a tradition of dressing smartly for dinner, and if you’re planning additional time in such places as Cape Town or the Winelands, some added flair is recommended. Pack some items that can pull double duty. This can be where that MVP scarf comes in, a casual sundress, a button-down shirt, or fun bangles and earrings.
- A bathing suit and cover-up don’t take much room in your duffel bag and are often welcome additions, depending on the season and your itinerary.
GeoEx Safari Specialists: At Your Service
GeoEx’s team of safari experts know our safari destinations inside out—just one way we outshine our competitors—and they are there to offer suggestions, make thoughtful arrangements, and answer questions from your first call to your return home. We’re happy to provide further insight on what to pack for your safari, as well as all the other considerations that go into choosing the right safari for you.